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17 Pieces Of Advice Our Mothers Gave Us About Sex That Stuck With Us

What we learned about sex from our mothers.

Sex

I received a million lessons about sex when I was growing up and all 999,999 were about being safe to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Being a 17-year-old mother, my mom had been practicing that spiel since before I came out the womb. She had it on lock.

Then there was that one time my father sat a 12-year-old me down over a delightful iHOP meal to tell me that should I let a man f*ck, consequently I could not be upset when he no longer wants anything to do with me. Or at least that's what it translates to in the language of "real ones", but for those of you whose fathers don't sound like a BET: Uncut video, that simply meant don't be upset when you give the milk up for free and men don't want to buy the whole damn cow. One, that's a lie, and two, it's a shame if you have to scheme me out of my cookie at this age.

What's most disappointing was that in all those lessons that I received about sex, not one of them warned me that the dick could have you sprung. That sex could be amazing, orgasmic, and intimate — with or without a ring on it (it being your finger, of course). Even me being grown-grown, my mom is not really one for the sex talk. Glimpses of her being about that life here and there but nothing that has stuck with me.

But as someone who received so many messages about safe sex and still engaged in unprotected sex, I can attest to the the fact that scare tactics under the guise of a helpful lesson won't discourage but encourage curiosity. Still, holding onto hope after one of xoNecole's editors put us up on game based on advice her own mother had given her, we asked our friends, our readers, and our staff to tell us what messages they received about sex and here's what they said:

​1. "Turn your eyes instead of confronting your husband about cheating. This was paralleled by my mother teaching me to demand money for attention and for my body."

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Wise words from: Grandmother

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"These ideals affected my attitude towards sex because it turned into an exchange of goods instead of an exchange of energy and aligned goals. Today, I had to commit to multiple years of celibacy and self-love to peel back the layers of misguided learnings to design the experience in life and love I desire. Yes, a man should be a provider, but that holds no bearings on him deserving my body just because. Yes, I can forgive indiscretions, but I'm allowed to have boundaries, standards... Anyone not honoring them are telling me how they feel about me." – A.Comeaux

2. "Men who like you shaved down there are pedophiles." – Kyla

3. "Your cat is all you have to give and once you give it away, it's over for you." – xoFollower

4. "The willingness to eat you out was a requirement."

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Wise words from: Mom and/or grandma

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"They instilled in me the expectation that sex is pleasurable to me, period. I remember telling them when I lost my virginity, being afraid if they would be ashamed of me or something, my grandmother's first response was literally, 'Was it good?' They regularly taught me that as a woman sex is to be a delightful experience, and any man who makes you feel otherwise isn't a man I should share myself with. It helped me feel confident in my sexual experiences — I've never cared about 'body count', how many people I was seeing in a given period time or any of that stuff. It unleashed the inner 'hoe' that's probably in every woman. I've never felt the need to debate, justify, or explain the female position in casual sex. Likewise, I'm in a perfectly healthy monogamous relationship right now. They helped shape the way I think about myself, and helped me disregard the pressures our society has around women and their sexuality. I didn't live my life trying to be wifey material, whatever the f*ck that is." – Carla

5. "If you have sex you will contract HIV or become a single mother and die alone." – xoFollower

6. "You'll go to hell." – xoFollower

"They regularly taught me that as a woman sex is to be a delightful experience, and any man who makes you feel otherwise isn't a man I should share myself with."

7. "Never let a man get on top of you and hump you like a rabbit. It's not a race."

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Wise words from: Auntie

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"I took it to heart. I actually tell [partners] that just so they know to come correct. I told the guy I'm currently talking to that and he spent 30 minutes going down. I make sure I get mine. It has made me more upfront and confident in what I want sexually, it's made me comfortable vocalizing it. If they can't respect that, then they're not the right one." – Kamilah

8. "Boys are nasty. Don't let them touch you." – xoFollower

9. "Every partner you have will take a little piece of you and you'll feel less like yourself each time."

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Wise words from: Auntie

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"I love sex and although it's only been in recent years that I made a conscious effort to remain celibate, these words have been taking root in me for years, from the first time I began crying mid-sex to the next two times. I tried to fight it as much as possible since I love sex and all...But the older I got, the more I grew tired of ignoring the burnout that came with meaningless sex for me. I truly felt my partners depleting me of my energy. Some people are built for casual sex, emotionally. I've finally realized that I'm not one of them. I try to be on an annual basis, like literally I try having sex again once a year and it ends in tears. This has made my sex life nearly nonexistent as far as including other partners goes, but I hope that it will give me a more fruitful sex life when I find the right person to have sex with." – Tracey*

10. "If he's horny and you're not, you better give it or he'll find it somewhere else."

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Wise words from: Nana

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"It made me feel like sex is something I have with a man to show him I care about him, and in a way, value him more. It's [sex] for consumption and if I don't give it to him, that's grounds for him to be unsatisfied/not love me. So I used sex as a way to get a guy to really be interested in me — a bargaining tool if you will, and a major component of my value as a woman and partner." – Zaniah

11. "Don't let them boys dig in you." – xoFollower

12. "Sometimes you have to set your alarm so you can get it in the morning because men are always ready in the morning."

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Wise words from: Mom

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"Although we're a religious family, my parents have always talked about how once married, sex should be pleasurable and it is an act created by God to be enjoyed — not to be ashamed of. I've carried that into my marriage and have a very healthy sex life with my husband. I've always been open to try new things but the comfort and pleasure that comes with sex in marriage when you've been raised to understand that sex is natural, pleasurable, and Christian is maximized." – Mya

13. "A wet ass and an empty purse don't go together." – Rebecca

14. "I'll tell you how to keep em! You gotta put that voodoo p*ssy on them." – Jamillah

15. "Men are dogs and sex is bad." – xoFollower

"I've always been open to try new things but the comfort and pleasure that comes with sex in marriage when you've been raised to understand that sex is natural, pleasurable, and Christian is maximized."

16. "Try it before you buy it."

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Wise words from:Mom

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"It gave me the confidence to go out into the world and be as sexual as I desired, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I don't feel disappointed in myself or the experience, I just look at the glass half full and am always grateful that I found out sooner than later." – Sam

17. "Cop a feel. Make sure it's real." – Shellie

After speaking to so many different women about the different things they've learned from women before them about sex, I am fully aware that some of these messages have gray areas. I also recognize the danger of pushing an abstinence-only agenda. Depending on how you flex your sexuality, the placement of some of these will resonate with you more than others. Really, it's simple: We must be sure to educate our daughters on the pleasure principles while simultaneously stressing the difficulties of teenage pregnancy and the potential dangers that arise with sexually transmitted infections.

There's a way to go about it and some of the stuff I read above — that ain't it. So, lets vow to do better. Let's cancel this rhetoric of sex being "unlady-like" in adolescents because, for some of us, it's making good sex hard to come by in adulthood. Now, I'd like to hear from you. What have the women before you taught you about sex? How has it shaped your sexuality or your sex life today?

All images by Getty Images.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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